Sermon: “Help Is On Its Way”
Lectionary Series A; Sixth Sunday in Easter
Sunday, May 17, 2020
Gospel Reading: John 14:15-21
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
There was once a man who was stuck on his rooftop in a flood, so he prayed to God for help.
Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, "Jump in, I can save you."
The stranded man shouted back, "No, it's OK, I'm praying to God for help, and he is going to save me."
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. "The fellow in the motorboat shouted, "Jump in, I can save you."
To this the stranded man said, "No thanks, I'm praying to God for help, and he is going to save me."
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, "Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety."
To this the stranded man again replied, "No thanks, I'm praying to God for help, and he is going to save me."
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. While there, he finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, "I prayed to you for help, but you didn't save me! You let me drown! I don't understand why!"
To this God replied, "I did send you help. I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter. What more did you expect?"
We are nearing the end of the Easter season, which means that Pentecost will soon be here when God sent His promised Holy Spirit to the apostles. In today’s text, Jesus was in the upper room with His disciples before He would die on the cross. There in that room, Jesus promised that they would not be left as orphans when He would return to His Father. He promised to them that He would send the Helper. He promised to them that help was on its way.
We all need help from time to time. Help with homework, help with finances, help with home projects, help with technology, help with reaching the top shelf, help with the dishes, help with cleaning the house, help with filing taxes, help with planting and weeding the garden. We all need help from time to time.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I was informed by Nora’s kindergarten teacher that I was supposed to help her with the gift she would be giving to her mom for Mother’s Day. Before I knew it, I was helping her with coloring, cutting, taping, and more.
Nora also told me a joke about help as well. “Where can you always find a ‘helping’ hand?” … “At the end of your arm.” J
The church down in Janesville, Minnesota, where I vicared had a men’s Bible Study group. While there, they changed the name of the group. They changed it to “Men Who Need Help.” It was a fitting name that most would probably agree with.
Safe to say, we all are in need of help as we navigate this life. Jesus promised that help was on its way to His disciples. Indeed, they were ‘men who needed help.’ But help for what?
Jesus said: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever (John 14:15-16).
Simply put, we need help to obey. God calls us as Christians to obey His commandments. He says: “If you love me, you will…you will keep my commandments.
We need help to obey. We are not good at following commands. We want to do what we want to do. All too often we do choose to be orphans. Instead of living in the security of His love and care, all too often we do choose to run away and do things our own way. We don’t like to be told what to do. We certainly love to live by the Frank Sinatra line of “I did it my way,” and that’s exactly what we do. And no one better tell us otherwise. Forgive us, Lord.
Beyond that though, we need help just to receive help. Let’s be honest, we typically don’t like to receive help. To admit that would be to say that we need something, or that we aren’t capable of doing something on our own. And we like to think that we are completely capable people on our own.
Just think, when was the last time someone offered you help? And when they offered it, what was your response? How many of us said to that person offering a hand of help, “No, that’s alright, I can do it. I got this.”
Would we not agree that we struggle with receiving help? And why is that?
Well, to ask for help is a sign of weakness. It is a sign that we don’t have things under control. And none of us likes to think that we are weak and perhaps don’t have control. We would much rather put on the façade that we have it altogether.
It is interesting when we consider this nature of ‘help’ that when we choose to refuse help from someone else, many times we are cutting them off from following the command of Jesus when he said that we are to love our neighbor. What might our community look like if we were all willing to give and ‘receive’ help? Just something to think about the next time you see someone in need, or someone offers to help you.
Jesus said that the Helper was on His way because He knew that His disciples needed it. He knew that we needed it. As God’s commandments are placed before us, we fail every time. We are not ‘good’ people as so many tend to think. We do need help. We need someone to be obedient, even to the point of death…in our place. Without this, we would all be doomed to die.
This is why we need Jesus. Jesus was obedient in every way and He gave His life on that cross of Calvary. He shed His holy and precious blood to cover us for all the times ‘we’ have failed to obey His commandments. We need His innocent suffering and death, because had it not been for His sacrifice, that would have been us left to die to face the wrath of God. But Jesus, who loves us beyond measure, came to do what we were not able to do. He did die our death.
He came to die, and He came to rise, and He came to ascend back to His Father. But through it all, He promised that He would not leave us or forsake us. He promised that He would keep coming to us. And that is exactly what He does.
He keeps coming to us by way of the Helper, the Holy Spirit. With water combined with God’s Word, we were baptized into the name of the Triune God. Then and there, the Holy Spirit came to us. Then and there, we were given the gift of faith in Jesus.
This is the help that we needed so that we would not be left as orphans left to fend for ourselves. By the grace of God, our Savior keeps coming to us to feed us with all that we need so that we will be sustained unto eternal life. His Word. His body and blood. His forgiveness.
You see, He knows just how frail and fragile we truly are. But, with the power of the His Spirit alive and well within us, He makes sure that we have all the help we need to keep loving, obeying, believing, trusting, and hoping…He gives us all the help we need to endure unto eternal life.
That’s the beauty of the way the worship service begins every week. It begins with our remembering our baptism by making the sign of the cross, the same cross that was placed upon our foreheads and upon our hearts to mark us as redeemed by Christ the crucified. And then, we immediately go into confession and absolution. And why? Because the reason we come to the Lord week after week is because we need help.
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. The Kyrie is our cry for help. We are sinners in need of a Savior.
So God calls us into His presence, and the Spirit who helps us in our weakness, leads us to confess that we need help. We don’t like to admit it, but we do. We need help. We are sinners and we can’t save ourselves. We have failed to obey His commands. We do deserve to die. We are helpless. We are doomed to be damned.
But our God graciously hears and answers our call for help. Like the Israelites who were stuck by the Red Sea with the Egyptians advancing, only to have God pave a way through the sea for them to safely cross. Like Jonah who was running from God and thrown overboard in a storm, only to be swallowed by giant fish and vomited on land. Like Peter who was walking on water and then took his eyes off of Jesus and started to drown, only to have Jesus reach out and pull him safely into the boat. Like so many before us, so it is with us. Our God is all about hearing our cry for help, and responding with just that…help.
By the power of the Spirit, the Helper leads us to confess our sins, and by the power of the cross of Christ, they are taken from us. Hear it, and hear it again, your sins are forgiven. Every last sin that you have committed, all those that you have held on to for so long, all those sins that you keep in the deep recesses of your heart, they are all gone. You are a forgiven and beloved child of God.
How is all of that possible, you ask? It’s because in His infinite wisdom, God said that help was on its way, and He delivered. The Helper, the Spirit of truth dwells with you and in you…forever. Our Help IS in the name of the Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.